Setting Our Kids Up for Success
By Emmy Fearn
Being parents of two young adults with ADHD and learning disabilities has provided my husband and me years of trial-and-error experience in child raising. Happily, in spite of inevitable missteps, our children are achieving, socially-responsible, loving individuals: our 24-year old daughter excelled at UC Hastings Law School and our 20-year old son flourished at UC Davis studying Computer Science Engineering.
Here are a few thoughts on how we supported our children to help them become successful, confident young adults:
From the very beginning, we explained ADHD to our children in unemotional terms they could understand. This was important to do, because—as with many children with disabilities—our first-grade daughter’s school experience had led her to believe she was stupid.
We explained why they needed to take medication. They became partners in managing their behavior, and they felt empowered. As a result, we never encountered typical teenage problems with compliance or missing pills.
“Our children knew where they stood with us, and they trusted us to protect them and be fair.”
We presented a united front to friends and family, and we had realistic expectations for our children’s behavior.
We identified each child’s interests and strengths and supported them in developing their talents. This strengthened their sense of self-worth and having success in one area motivated them to work hard in more challenging areas.
We discovered “tricks” to help them do better in school, which helped them develop confidence and become advocates for themselves. They understood that some things they had to do or learn might not come easily, but that working hard increased the likelihood of achieving a goal.
Partnering with the School
We made sure that their teachers understood ADHD and what they could do to help our children succeed. This led to teachers being more understanding and more successful in helping the children, which is what teachers want to do.
We checked-in with the children to make sure that homework assignments were within the scope of their abilities, and provided feedback to teachers as necessary. However, we did not do homework with or for them. Doing their own work contributed to their developing self-competence.
We provided access to the computer for word processing at an early age, and they typed all of their assignments.
Optimizing our children’s school experiences was central to our strategies, especially in grade school, when much of their lives and our family time revolved around school activities. We also considered the effect of decisions—such as whether or not to take medication—on the entire family, and we created a child-centered environment, where our children and our family always came first.